WE ALL know that Ford will be launching its new Ranger bakkie in South Africa in the early part of 2019.
The Ranger is an important vehicle for Ford South Africa with consistently solid sales figures in both the domestic and export markets. In fact, according to Ford, its Silverton plant in Pretoria exports more Rangers than what is sold in South Africa.
This shows just how the current Ranger was well received among bakkie aficionados, depending on which part of the world you come from.
To remind us just how good the current offering is, we got a Ford Ranger to test for a few days. Our test unit was the Ranger XLT 4X4 Auto, which slots in just beneath the top spec Wildtrek in the local Ranger line-up.
When reviewing a bakkie, one would typically look at things like torque figures, towing capability and off-road abilities.
But times have changed and so have motorists’ use of bakkies. Instead of primarily transporting livestock and bales of hay on the farm, bakkies, particularly double cabs, have evolved into everyday vehicles for transporting the kids to school, then heading straight to the office.
Finding space in a packed Builders Warehouse parking lot is often the most challenging thing bakkie owners do in their 4x4s.
Consequently items such as infotainment systems, multifunction steering wheels, climate control and easy-on-the-eye exterior designs are now what buyers are looking for, even when shopping for a bakkie.
The latter is probably where the Ford Ranger, particularly in Wildtrek guise, is a runaway winner. The front fascia, replete with the big, bold Ford grille gives the Ranger the presence and attitude one expects in a big American truck – even though the Ranger is built right here in SA.
The chrome finishes on the XLT derivative makes it very clear that this is not to be mistaken for a tractor. This is a winning design that makes you understand why Ford will probably opt for an evolutionary rather than radical change when it comes to updating future Ranger models.
In the current XLT’s cabin one finds Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system with an 8” touchscreen, navigation, Bluetooth and two easy to reach USB ports located at the base of the control panel where you’ll find the control switches for the automatic dual-zone aircon unit and two 12v power outlets, with another one located in the rear of the cabin.
The high seating position of the Ranger makes one really feel like the ‘boss of the road’, and the comfortable and very supportive leather seats in our test unit just added to the feeling. The soft leather application continues with the stitched multi-function steering wheel and door inserts.
Where we do I hope to see a difference in the upcoming new Ranger is the application of leather finishes, at least in the XLT models, on the dashboard, which is currently limited to the Wildtrek. I think this is a fair ask considering that the XLT model retails for marginally less than the top Wildtrek.
Cabin space in the Ranger matches the exterior dimensions. The front occupants obviously have the best seating in terms of leg room, but the rear of the cabin is not cramped either as I realised when I had to fit two car seats for my boys who insisted on accompany me on every trip to Builders.
Their safety was assured by seven airbags, ISOFIX hooks and a plethora of safety-related acronyms like ABS with EBD, ESP, and so forth.
But how did the Ranger fair as an everyday commuter?
If the recent fuel price increase has you worried about fuel consumption in the big bakkie, then the 3.2 litre turbo diesel that powers the Ranger will put your mind at ease with its frugal consumption considering the size of the car it propels.
Ford will also be adding its new 157kW 2.0 litre bi-turbo engine to the Ranger and Everest line-up, which incidentally will also power the much anticipated Ranger Raptor.
In summary, the Ford Ranger offers everything one needs in a modern bakkie – good looks, comfort, safety, and the off-road capability and utility that can only be found in a bakkie.
It will, therefore, be very interesting to see what the new Ranger brings to the party to raise the bar even further than what its predecessor had?
Review by: Felix SEBATA